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Monthly Archives: August 2013

South Namibia

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DSC_733825/8/13 Across the Orange River was Namibia, with amazing landscapes deserts, spectacular mountains, lunar scapes and mars scapes.

I thought we had driven to Mars when we were heading into Ai Ais hot springs resort. We had a soak in the hot pools and walked to a lookout with stunning views.

Fish River Canyon

27/8/13 Fish river canyon – again, more spectacular views.

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We crossed paths with Charlie Boorman motorbike tours twice that day. They pull into Ai Ais for morning tea, and later into Fish River Canyon. He was not scared of messing around on the very edge of the cliff. They were going to be in Victoria Falls in 6 days. We will take around 6 weeks to get there.

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We stopped well back from the cliff edge for all of our photos.

DSC_744328/8/13 We were passing the LR repairer Johan Strauss of Steinfeld Garage, so dropped by to replace a worn shock bush. Wow, what a stunning property, and he also has a canyon (with descent 4wd tracks as we discovered). We passed Johan on his way to a job, on the 5km drive to the house; his assistant Korvas sorted us out and then suggested we take a drive around the property to kill an hour or so; by then Johan should be back so we could pay.

DSC_7461He gave us no warning but I would suggest not to head down into the canyon unless 4wd experienced: technical, rocky, low range 1st, with some track rebuild required; some unexpected fun. (When driving gets interesting, it becomes my turn and I push Frankie out of the drivers seat to take photos). We continued for a few kms along their fence line (the property seemed endless), time was passing, so we turned around to return to the house, down and up the canyon again.

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Other common scenes of South Namibia:

Social Weaver Birds Nest

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Social Weavers build large nests in many trees (or here a telegraph pole). They are very busy flying in and out, threading straw into the nest like thatched roofs.

We try to make friends with small creatures.

There are many Quiver tree “forests”. They are actually not trees but aloe plant.

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Africa, Namibia

 

Richtersveld

Port Nolloth was our next stop to resupply and rendezvous with Greg, the new trip leader who would take us through the Richtesveld. We took a passage road through large restricted areas of the De Beers diamond mines. On this passage, there were lots of turtles crossing the road. There is strictly no stopping allowed on this section, even for the poor turtle flicked out by the car in front and left spinning on its back.

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Australia claims to be The BBQ Capital Of The World and so does South Africa with their Braai. After spending time with the club and other South Africans, I would say the South Africans have one up on us. There were 15 carloads of people on the trip cooking their meals night after night; the production and coordination around the braai was like poetry in motion. And it did not stop there, as they cooked extras for next day’s lunch or snacks. A plastic food container seems to be a Braai accessory.

Greg van der Reis, founder and owner of the 4×4 Offroad Adventure Club, took us through the Richtersveld, a desert area of northern S/A.

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We travelled through many amazing landscapes, moon-scapes, mars-scapes; a lot of trails weaved through gullies and canyons, one track Greg had not been down in 12 years so there was some clearing to de done. (Heck! the trees and bushes here have massive spikes all over them!!!) We had lots of interesting stops including mica mines (we explored inside a few), gold mines, a granite quarry (Greg explained how they cut the granite blocks by drilling and using a cutting band), ruins, petroglyphs and a tank which usually has Baboons skeletons in the bottom (they climb in but cannot get out. Greg says they have put ropes and ladders in, but the locals steal them).

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We were specifically asked not to share our GPS traces as this area was still largely unmapped and unspoiled.

It was wonderful spending time with the club and their members, some of the warmest, genuine people I have met. The majority of the trip attendees seemed to be young and many retired, a consequence of the regime change and many white South Africans being offered attractive early retirement packages. We had some great chats including:

Colin – all the hilarious things his pet meerkat gets up to. Steed and John (Amarula Coffee Mixologist and Potjki Master) – gave an overview on South African snakes and their own personal encounters. (Yikes. I think South Africa also out does Australia in the poisonous snakes area too….. scary!!) Peter (retired nuclear chemist) about his job at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station, also giving me a quick lesson in the basics of nuclear reactions, reactors, Fukushima, etc….. So interesting. Bernard – a retired cameraman, looked after us throughout the trip, lovely, warm fireside chats.

So sad to say goodbye, as they headed south back to Cape Town, we continued north into Namibia.

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More pictures in the Photo section

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Africa, South Africa

 

Namaqualand, West Coast

The track opened up to the Atlantic Ocean and Lamberts Bay, a fishing village. Not the most attractive town but it does have a big potato factory on the wharf (but again, they don’t have public tours through this factory either ☹).

There is a big bird colony past the wharf, you can pay to go out to see. We declined as we imagined it was all birds, stench and getting shat on. Instead, we were entertained by a seal in the harbour waving / cooling itself.

We had an average to ok seafood dinner in town, was hoping for better from a fishing village.

IMG_2958The only thing we found worthwhile in this town was the seafood buffet experience at Muisbosskerm Restaurant (Mouse bush shelter). The restaurant is basically a stylish, open air shelter on the beach: walls made of mouse bush, the sand floors neatly raked, not much in the way of ceiling, cool furniture made from single slabs of stone or cross sections of tree trunks, no cutlery available, only mussel shells to use. We started with fish biltong, then approx. 6 separate fish variety, paella, stews, fresh bread, crayfish. Ergh, so full….

Observation to date: All seafood (actually all food for that matter) seems to be cooked very well (done) over here.

Continuing north along the coast, the next village was Doringbaai. This village has a Winery on the wharf; (the grapes come from their coastal vineyards nearby) where we had lunch and topped up our mini wine cellar.

The seafood lunch was just edible to really bad; but the location was utterly stunning as our lunch was served in a private room, with 360 deg views, right at the end of the jetty.

When moving on, and out of Doringbaai, a Land Rover convoy was going past. We pulled out and slotted in a gap in the middle of it. We scanned our CB channels but could not pick them up (turns out they use AM, and unfortunately we ditched our AM radio about 8 years ago after UHF became the norm and AM phased out in Oz).

We thought we looked the part, but apparently the extra car caused a bit of commotion over the airwaves. We continued as if part of their convoy until they turned off to do a sidetrack, and we went straight on into Strandfontein to camp.

Strandfontein has nice campsites overlooking the big swells but it is also a bit exposed to the wind. The waves were coming in from a long way and it was blowing side on (thought – this could be a good, tho cold, windsurfing beach). The tap water tastes good here so we filled up our tanks.

The campsite was quiet and peaceful, being offseason. We set up camp, and were quietly settling in when in comes the convoy. Suddenly we were surrounded by 15 LRs from the Cape Land Rover Club. Normally it would have been an invasion, but being LR we were now camping with a bunch of friends.

Next morning we said goodbye to our new friends. There was the possibility that we might bump into each other along the way as we were going to be covering similar route and areas, but we assumed we travelled slowly as we tend to stop and hang out at anything that takes our fancy.

We left them and continued up the amazing coastline along 4wd tracks. The conditions must be ideal for mussel growing, as there were beaches and beaches, made entirely of mussel shells. Instead of banks of sand, there were massive banks of mussel shells, some 3 meters high from the low tide water. The locals used to burn the shells to make lime for cement.

DSC_6771We were lucky to be in Namaqualand at the beginning of the wild flower season.

It is illegal to drive on the beaches so we camped in the dunes, our neighbours being some mice in the mouse bush and some seals down on the rocks.

Next day was another late start after mooching around the rocks and marvelling at the incredible amount of mussels.

We drove past lagoons with Flamingos. Funny birds, when flying they’re all neck and legs, when sleeping, they look like a helmet on a stick.

Two meerkat jumped out and raced along the track in front of us, then stood at their hole and stared at us as we went by. Other animals to date were ostrich, whale, dolphin, deer.

The sand gets really soft in places and following a track can send you into soft deep sand or down the bottom of a hill with the only exit being back up the soft, deep sand track. All a bit of fun, but if not 4WD experienced and you get yourself stuck then you could be waiting a while before some assistance passes by.

DSC_6881By mid afternoon, we ran up the back of the LR convoy again. They had just finished extracting a car out of deep sand (even with so many competent drivers, it still took them 45 mins). We stopped for a late lunch where they presented us with a club sticker and made us honorary members of the Cape LR club; what wonderful surprise!

We found ourselves camping together again; and they invite us to join them for the rest of their trip into the Richtersveld. This area was in Frankie’s plan, however the club was meeting with a member who had access to areas ordinarily closed and knowledge of many unmapped tracks, so we joined them for the next 5 days.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in Africa, South Africa

 

Cape Town to Cedarberg mountains

CederbergSNOW on the surrounding mountains of Cape Town confirmed it was too cold to stay longer, and to start heading north to warmer climates.

Our drive was via the Cedarberg Mountains.

We crossed Bain’s Kloof Pass and as we were heading down, a large group of girls were grinding up, all on high-end mountain bikes including a carbon Titus (Frankie spots these things).  We did not crack the code, but they were all wearing long purple sox (dress code the day before around Table Mtn was long red sox).   We thought the colour indicates the SPF of the sox – Snake Protection Factor, SA has lots of scary snakes.

The drive thru the Cedarberg mountains has many spectacular rocky formations.  But where are the Cedars trees?  Where are any trees?

The area looks ideal for camping in warmer weather (although it also looks snakey), with many walking, mtn bike tracks and creeks, however the many camping facilities made it look like it is very popular (= busy).

We nearly got trapped in the Cedarbergs during our 2nd night.  At 3am it started to rain, and did not stop.  Mountain runoff further upstream funnels into the river that cuts Algeria campground in half. By the morning, the river was roaring and raging.  Still rising, it had cut us off from the track out of the campground.

We estimated we could be stuck for 5 days or more, that’s no problem except it was miserably cold.  We were getting prepared to sit it out when a ranger appeared in the rain (over the high footbridge) and said he would open the back track gate to release us, and our co-trapped neighbours, Robbie and Nora.

Robbie is a retired military arms engineer working on and selling military helicopters in interesting countries.  With cold wet weather now set in, we all decided to head to the Hot Spring Baths of Citrusdale.

Citrusdal "The Baths"

Some roads were also closed by swollen rivers, so we had to go all the way to the highway and take a long route to Citrusdale.  We passed the dam and one of the overflow gates was open, when we passed again a few days later, 3 gates were open releasing water with impressive power.

All the indoor spas of Citrusdale Baths were far too hot and unbearable for me, however I was in heaven soaking in their outdoor hot rock pools in the freezing cold rain.

2 days later, it was still chucking it down, but it was time to leave the baths and keep moving north.

Rooibos farm

The world’s supply of Rooibos comes from this area of South Africa and there is a Rooibos factory in Clanwilliam.  The factory looks impressive from the outside, and the air around the factory smells nice, but it is not open to the public.  The shop has an informative video of the process.

Next door we walked around the floor of a shoe factory and watched shoes and boots being made by hand, an amazing number of bits and pieces, being cut and glued and sewn and pressed together.

Still cold and raining, we left Clanwilliam.

More pictures in the Photos section of the site.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Africa, South Africa

 

Cape Town

We arrived in Cape Town almost a week ago.

After flying in from Sydney, we were met at the airport by Duncan who took  us to his place and the wonderful sight of our car waiting for us.  Now reunited with our gear we crawled straight into our roof tent and crashed out.

The car’s journey to Cape Town went well,  but not without some extra stress, cost and organisation, luckily all sorted while the car was still on the water.
When the carnet was “lost at sea” we had some concerns:   Could we get another one in time, would customs stamp the carnet without an inspection of the car and would it get lost when sent again?
There was no alternative so another $530 was spent and a second carnet was bought, stamped and sent again … and it arrived the day before the car, avoiding expensive storage costs!

We’re loving Cape Town; when it is not raining.  This city has everything,  its a bit like having the Hunter Valley, the Blue Mountains, the Northern Beaches and the City of Sydney all compressed into a tiny area.

We are staying on Duncan’s farm in Stellenbosch, one of the wine areas of the Cape.
We drove to the Cape of Good Hope with its stunning views, were entertained by the car park ostriches, and the penguins in Simon Town.

We enjoyed the most spectacular view of the city, land and sea from Table Mountain. Being off season, the Gondola was closed so it was like Pitt St up the steep, rugged track.  Its a pretty decent hike and I’m glad I had my hiking boots and a jacket to put on up the top (6 degC), rather than dressed like many other tourists in casual and even office clothing and shoes.

Cape Hope National Park

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Africa, South Africa